Do the Minnesota Vikings Have a QB Competition?

Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings

It’s almost July, which means training camp season is right around the corner for the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the NFL. As training camp kicks off, we can anticipate a heated competition for the starting quarterback spot between Sam Darnold and newly drafted JJ McCarthy, or will we..?

JJ McCarthy was solid minicamp, developing exactly as head coach Kevin O’Connell hoped. Despite his progress, according to a new report, McCarthy is unlikely to see playing time for the Minnesota Vikings this year unless Sam Darnold struggles or gets injured.

Do the Minnesota Vikings actually have a QB competition on their hands?

When Kirk Cousins left the Vikings and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency back in March, many fans expected the Vikings to look to the draft for their next quarterback. Holding the 11th overall pick, it seemed likely they would choose a promising new talent to lead the team.

They then drafted JJ McCarthy, but even before that, they signed free agent quarterback Sam Darnold to a one-year deal at the end of March. This set the stage for a competitive quarterback battle between Darnold and McCarthy.

Related: Minnesota Vikings Know Who They Want to Win the WR3 Job

After minicamps, it’s becoming clear: Sam Darnold has solidified his role as the starting quarterback moving forward, while JJ McCarthy continues to hone his skills. Vikings reporter Alec Lewis recently alluded to this reality, suggesting there’s a scenario where Darnold maintains his starting position throughout the entire season.

Definitely [will not see J.J. McCarthy] in Week 1. Probably not in the first quarter of the season. Potentially not even in the first half of the season. There is even a scenario in which he shouldn’t be expected to start at all this year.

If Darnold is dominating, dishing the ball easily and limiting turnovers, and the Vikings are winning, why mess with the chemistry or team trajectory? Similarly, if Darnold is struggling, and the Vikings are not competitive, it’ll be difficult for O’Connell to quiet the noise for McCarthy.

Alec Lewis – The Athletic

It’s clear why this makes perfect sense. Darnold is poised for success in Minnesota, surrounded by top-tier talent like the game’s best receiver Justin Jefferson along with Jordan Addison, a strong tight end corps, and a solid offensive line.

With the addition of Aaron Jones in the backfield, Darnold is stepping into by far the most explosive offense he has ever been a part of and there is no reason to believe he is going to look so bad that KOC is going to want to speed up J.J. McCarthy’s development to relieve him.

Vikings’ QB JJ McCarthy still has room to grow and Sam Darnold seems ready

Yes, there’s still plenty of time for circumstances to evolve. JJ McCarthy would need an exceptionally strong first training camp to be seriously considered for early-season playtime, especially if Sam Darnold, a seasoned six-year NFL veteran, maintains his current form that he showed in minicamps.

If you want to dream about when you might see McCarthy, then you are probably praying for the Vikings to struggle. That’s probably the only way the rookie gets any run. If Minnesota is only ok, there are pressure points in the schedule that would make sense to introduce J.J., which Alec gets into.

Maybe it’ll then make sense to prepare McCarthy for the Week 7 matchup — after their bye week — against the Lions. Or maybe he’ll be in line for Week 9 with extra time to receive first-team reps after a Thursday night matchup in Los Angeles against the Rams.

There are several chances to onboard McCarthy if the Vikings want. But they probably won’t do so until Darnold (or the team overall) struggles.

Alec Lewis – The Athletic

In his six-year NFL career with the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and San Francisco 49ers, Sam Darnold has compiled a starting record of 21-35. While not having the league’s strongest reputation, Sam has already proven to those inside the Vikings locker room that he can handle QB1 responsibilities.

Related: Vikings Need an Upgrade at Wide Receiver and Texans Have Buffet of Options

JJ McCarthy will be back at the Vikings facilities on July 21st as rookies start their first day of training camp. Veterans will join them on July 23rd, with the first open-to-fans camp set for Saturday, July 27th.

The Vikings kick off their preseason on August 10th at home against the Las Vegas Raiders, giving McCarthy plenty of opportunities for quality reps before the regular season begins.

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